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How serious are cervical spinal cord injuries?

All spinal cord injuries are serious; however, the injuries that occur in areas higher on the spine are considered the most serious. The uppermost section of the spinal column is the cervical spine. There are eight vertebrae in this section that can be injured. The vertebrae of the cervical spine are divide into two categories -- high cervical and low cervical. Each category consists of four vertebrae.

What effects are possible if the low-cervical nerves are damaged?

Injuries to the C5 to C8 vertebrae can lead to nerve damage in that area. These nerves control the hands and arms. Damage in this area of the spinal cord can lead to an inability to walk. The ability to control the bladder or bowels might be affected. Injuries in this area might lead to difficulty with breathing, but most people are able to speak and use the diaphragm.

Some paralysis of the fingers, arms and hands might be present. However, it might be possible to drive with injuries in this area if an adaptive vehicle is available.

What effects are possible if the high-cervical nerves are damaged?

Damage to the C1 to C4 vertebrae can lead to serious health issues. The legs, arms, and trunk are likely to be paralyzed with injuries to the spinal cord in this area. Around-the-clock care is required. Bladder and bowel control, as well as the ability to breathe independently, are all affected. Some people with injuries at this level can speak, but that ability can be impaired. The ability to drive a vehicle isn't present.

If you suffered a cervical spinal injury, you might need considerable care. If your injury was caused by an accident, such as a workplace accident or car crash, you might opt to seek compensation to help with medical care and other expenses.

Source: Shepherd Center, "Levels of Injury," accessed June 10, 2016

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